One Day in Osaka
I visited Osaka recently to renew my passport. Instead of mailing the renewal form, what better excuse to see the city than go for a quick visit. In the past Osaka was the commercial centre of Japan, fondly known as the country’s ‘kitchen’ as the major trader of rice, which then started what we now know as futures exchange market. Currently it functions as one of the command centres for Japan’s economy. Second to Tokyo in terms of size, population and contribution to Japan’s economy.
When I was there for a day I felt it was large and busy, but not as vibrant as Tokyo. Tokyo, on the other hand was just pumping! I still enjoyed my day nonetheless.
My first stop was the Osaka Castle. Very central and easily accessible by the Osaka city loop train through the Osaka Business Park or the Osaka-jo Koen stops. Established in the 16th century, the main tower had experienced two major disasters – firstly, destroyed through the summer war in 1615 and secondly, struck by lightning and burned down in 1665. The present main tower had been reconstructed in 1931 and named as a special historic site by the national government.
The Osaka Castle Park is a huge area that has aside from the main tower a forest park, baseball field, meeting hall, numerous flower gardens, guest house and many more. It holds many beautiful and important historical items in the museum.
From the castle my next stop was the Sumiyoshitaisha. The Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine was established in the 3rd century, even before the introduction of buddhism in Japan. One of the oldest shrines in Japan and famous for its unique sumiyoshi-zukuri architecture and the most visited shrine on new year.
This was my first time to visit a sumiyoshi-zukuri style shrine. It is quite beautiful and different from the others I have previously seen. The property is quite extensive with many buildings surrounded by japanese garden. The most attractive part of the shrine, for me, is the beautiful Sorihashi bridge that leads one to the main entrance of the shrine. It was interesting to read the story behind the bridge, especially the reason for one to cross it – to cleanse away worldly sins and filth before arriving at the shrine. It is steep as it is likened to a rainbow. I am not a big fan of heights and this bridge was steep to climb, but it was an experience.
Across from the shrine through the train station is the Sumiyoshi park with a combination of traditional and modern style Japanese garden features. Then it was onto my next stop on the list, Shitenno-ji. Built in the 6th century as the first buddhist temple and appointed as Japan’s officially oldest temple. I didn’t realise the time until I found it and walked through, it was already closed. But even when the main hall and gardens were closed I could still walk through the temple grounds, which was spread throughout a big area, and able to take photos from the outside. The buildings were beautiful. Now I have another reason to go back.
Then it was off to my last stop, which I looked forward to visiting all day! The Umeda Sky Building, which has the Floating Garden Observatory and the Lumi Sky Walk on the 40th floor, to enjoy a dusk view of the city. A short walk from the Osaka station, the Floating Garden has souvenir shops, cafes, restaurant and the love bench (aww, Japanese are so sweet!) They also have a ‘Fence of Vows’ where couples can buy a pair of heart lock (of course at their shop) and attach on the fence to promise their devotion to each other!
Like I mentioned before I was not a big fan of heights, but these views are not to be missed, so I endured. Going through a series of escalator, see-through lifts, and more escalator rides I landed on the 39th floor (the whole time holding my guts in) where you can stroll through the souvenir shop, climb up the stair, or take the lift as I did. It was so worth it!
With that view I bade Osaka goodnight. Would have wanted to stay for dinner, but that’s better when you don’t have to travel far to stay for the night. Maybe next time.